Encounter 10: The Night
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I spent quite a while in the shower, scrubbing my new body with a bar of soap, replacing one feeling of disgust with another. As I brushed my hands across this body, I tried to avoid the less familiar parts as much as possible. Despite my best efforts though, as the water poured down on me, I felt my nipples harden and identified a pulsating, warm, sensation from between my legs. For a brief moment, I smiled, finding some joy in these sensations… But then I brought a hand to my face, smacking myself so hard I nearly bashed my head open once more.

By the time I finished, I felt like a monster. A foul creature who not only committed the act of murder, but was aroused not five minutes after the deed was done. I tried to convince myself that I was simply disorientated after my head was literally smashed into pieces, and that I had yet to properly ‘explore’ this new body of mine. But those excuses did little to improve my bitter mood. 

After using the shower squeegee to wipe down the walls, I stepped out of the shower and wiped the bathroom mirror, revealing my body. My body for now and forever, exposed, naked, and staring back at me with a cold, disheartened stare. I shut my eyes, my abnormal red eyes, and put on a warm smile, but the face still didn’t look quite right. I wondered if this was the form Abigale Quinlan always had, or if she could somehow change her face and body on a whim. Peatrice would have answered that question, and told me how long she’s been around for. …But I just had to kill him. …That’s okay though. I had until the end of time to learn everything there is to know about my body… 

After grabbing a towel from outside the bathroom and drying myself, I used my mother’s hairbrush and hair dryer to tame my wet black hair. It took longer than I expected, but I managed to get it to resemble the state it was in when I first found myself in this body. Straight, covering my ears and most of my forehead, brushing against my shoulders. With that taken care of, I returned downstairs to where I left my box of clothes, digging through them for a new outfit. I settled on a violet sweater and a pair of white pants. Something bright and comfortable, while being loose enough to not constantly remind me of my new figure. 

With my box of clothes in tow, I then returned to my bedroom after what felt like a small eternity, and coming back was a… melancholic feeling. My bedroom was exactly as I remembered it from Thursday night— three days ago. But more than any other room in the house, it reminded me of my tall womanly body. Everything looked and felt smaller, especially my twin-sized bed. I normally snuggly fit into it, as if it was made specifically for my proportions. But as I laid on top of my blankets, my feet and ankles were dangling off. 

I let out a heavy sigh as I realized this, curled up in order to fit on the bed. Looking around the unlit room, I saw the familiar shelves and furniture, along with a clock that read 18:32.

Knowing there were still five and a half hours left in the day was enough motivation for me to try to get something done before I eased into another night. …Another night devoid of sleep and filled with regret. I looked at my computer, but I knew that if I turned it on, I would find a plethora of emails vilifying me for actions. Plus, I really wasn’t in the right mindset to drown my sorrows in things I love. I needed to do something to help myself for the foreseeable future, and the first thing that came to mind was getting some… support

I got out of bed, dug through my box of clothes to find the red peacoat and winter boots I bought back in Funke. I figured it was far more appropriate than my novelty bear jacket for what I was planning: Visiting my friend, Maxxie Flare, and trying to convince her and her family that I’m really Jad Novus. 

Well, calling it a plan might be an exaggeration. My mind was too cloudy to form a true plan, and instead I kept my attention fixated on walking the four blocks between Maxxie’s house and mine. I trekked through the light snowfall coating the sidewalk, only taking seconds to observe the familiar surroundings of my hometown. Many of which were adorned with seasonal lights and decorations that added color to the night, and gave me a morsel of hope that everything would be just fine once I arrived at Maxxie’s house.

Well, that may have been the case if anyone was home. The sizable Flare household was empty, all lights were off, and nobody responded to the doorbell. With a groan, I accepted that I wasn’t going to see Maxxie tonight. I tried to brush this off as a coincidence, telling myself that Maxxie could just be out somewhere with her family… but I could not accept that without any evidence. I needed confirmation that she— that any of my friends— were still alive. So I ran off to the home of Shiaka Kurosawa.

I dashed through the winter worn cement and side streets, disregarding my safety and barely feeling the cold brush against my exposed head. After moving about a kilometer in roughly two minutes, I reached Shiaka’s quaint little home. Sadly, it was vacant and encompassed in darkness, much like Maxxie’s home. I struggled to come up with an excuse for this beyond a large multi-family dinner, and went to my next option, Zoe Xing’s house.

I didn’t even bother looking as I sprinted across the few busy streets between Shiaka and Zoe’s home, and after three minutes of travel, I was met with more of the same. A home with no one inside.

It was here where I fell into the snow on Zoe’s front lawn, letting out a hearty sigh as I buried my face in the muffled white icy flakes. I had no clue where my friends were, where their parents were, or where my mother was. I was finally home… but I was still alone. My friends were possibly dead— probably dead— and their uncertain mortality stirred a vicious battle between hope and despair within my mind.

I had to know the truth, know what happened to them, and convince them that I am Jad Novus. I just needed a chance to talk to them. But due to my crappy memory, I didn’t remember their phone numbers.

I couldn’t contact them using my computer, as I doubt they would respond, let alone respond well to an email from their ‘dead’ friend. I could have chosen to break into their homes, use their computers, and find their phone numbers that way, but I had no idea what their passwords were, and I certainly wasn’t willing to break into my friends’ homes. I suppose I could have used my phone, but it was not on my desk where I left it last night. I could only assume that Abigale Quinlan took it before shooting up Oransen High, and it was now in police custody.

This caused me to rethink my options, reassess who I could contact, those who could help me. A few people came to mind, such as my mother’s friend and high school English teacher, Raiyne Underwood, but I had no clue where she lived. Narrowing my mind further, I recalled the address— or at the very least house and general location— of an acquaintance of mine. One who Maxxie occasionally drove home. Vivi Gaimz. 

My relationship with Vivi was not particularly strong one way or another. I talked to her on occasion, and we shared a couple classes over the past year, but I wouldn’t call her a proper ‘friend.’ Still, she was the best option available to me at the moment. …The problem now was finding her house.

I lived here all my life, but I never had any reason or motivation to go and explore it. My internal map of Oransen was made up of several isolated sections, and it was hard to piece them together, especially during a dark winter night. I recklessly ran into the streets, nearly got hit by cars, and slipped on ice, but I never felt so much as a hint of fatigue. After well over an hour of this, I stumbled onto a recognizable cul-de-sac, the only one I ever saw in this town. 

A minute later, a home caught my eye. It was fairly small, an elevated single-story ranch house with a pair of sizable bushes placed on both sides of the stairs to the front door, each adorned with blue and white Christmas lights. It was a bit hard to tell with the snow and lighting, but I was certain that this was Vivi’s home. 

Though, Vivi was not the one to answer the door after I walked up the four cement steps and pressed the doorbell. Instead, it was another familiar face who opened up the door. Gem Stone. A relaxed, friendly, and comfortable young man who had some form of autism, or something similar at the very least.

Either way, Gem’s 18-years-old, Hispanic, 1.88 meters, weighs about 76 kilograms, and has a cute face. I never really knew what he dressed like outside of school, but today he was wearing an ill-fitting and somewhat festive sweater and some khakis.

“Good evening, Miss. I was not expecting any other visitors tonight. How may I help you?” Gem questioned me through the storm door, reprising his proper yet awkward speech pattern.

“Oh, hello Gem, I thought this was Vivi’s house.” I commented while narrowing my eyes.

“I am sorry, Miss, but have we met you before?” Gem asked, still speaking through the storm door.

“It’s a long story, but the bottom line is that I really need to get a hold of Maxxie, Zoe, and Shiaka. Are they okay, were they…” I said, too afraid to finish that thought.

“Yes, Maxxisaurus, Zoe, and Shiaka are doing well. At least, all things considered. Once more, I do not recall meeting you before. What is your given and family name?”

I paused for a moment, allowing that confirmation to sink in. A boulder had been freed from my back, and I did not need to worry about the possibility that my friends died by my hands. …Or rather my original body’s hands. It was enough to ingrain a smile on my face as I continued to speak.

“My name’s Y’vonne Hemming. And, as I said, it’s a long story, so could you please give me their phone numbers? I really, really need to get a hold of them. It’s an emergency!” I requested from Gem, eager to get the necessary digits.

“Gem, sweetie, who’s at the door?” A female voice muttered from the background.

It was a voice I recognized, but I knew it was too chipper and high pitched to be Vivi. 

The speaker soon came in front of the door, revealing herself as Anita Neukar, a charming and lax young woman who always tried to be kind to everybody. She was rather tall for a woman, just barely shorter than Gem at 1.84 meters, very fit, and was the daughter of a German father and a Black mother. In spite of this, Anita somehow wound up with platinum blonde hair that she was wearing down, causing it to drape over her shoulders and halfway down her arms. That alone caused me to raise an eyebrow, as she always seemed to wear it as a ponytail while at school.

“Her name is Y’vonne Hemming, have you ever met her before?” Gem asked Anita.

“…No. That name doesn’t ring any bells. …Can we help you with anything? You look like you’ve been out there for… a while.” Anita commented, likely noticing the mound of snow that sat on my hatless head.

“I don’t mean to be any trouble, Anita. Could you just give me Maxxie, Zoe, and Shiaka’s phone numbers?” I asked while brushing the snow off my hair.

“Oh, right, they left town after… everything happened.” Anita murmured, a dour look appearing on her face.

“Oh, that explains that then…” I thought out loud.

That? What do you mean by that?” Anita repeated.

“I went to their houses earlier tonight, but I couldn’t find anyone.”

Seriously? I don’t see your car outside. …Don’t tell me you walked to all their houses!” Anita exclaimed, showing considerable concern for a ‘stranger’ like me..

“I did, but it was no trouble, trust me,” I said, only to soon regret my words.

“Nu-uh! I’m on track! I know how hard it can be to run just a few kilometers in the cold, and that has to be, what, seven? Eight? Come on in, Y’vonne! I’ll get you a nice hot cup of tea.” Anita said before opening the storm door that separated us.

I hesitated as Anita made her offer… but if I wanted to be able to contact my friends, this was my best bet. Once inside, I attempted to hang up my peacoat before Gem pulled it off my shoulders and onto the coat rack, trying to be a gentleman. I then took off my knee-high boots while Anita ran into the kitchen. With my winter gear taken off, I began looking around the quaint looking living room before me. 

There was a sofa placed comfortably away from a sizable television, a pair of bookshelves, and two recliners in the corner, next to a small table with a pile of coasters and a nice lamp. It was very modest-looking, as expected from the people who raised a practical woman like Vivi. As for what these acquaintances of mine were doing before I barged in, the three GameCube controllers placed on the couch made the answer rather clear. They were playing Super Smash Bros. for Wii U.

“Feel free to take a seat, Y’vonne Hemming, Vivi’s parents have very nice recliner chairs. They’re comfy and easy to sit in!” Gem announced, motioning his hand to the two chairs.

“No thank you, I really would just like to get the phone numbers,” I said, feeling awkward about this whole thing.

“I understand. I will get a piece of paper and write them down for you,” Gem said before scampering off into the kitchen.

With Anita having left to prepare some tea, and Gem in the kitchen with her, I simply stood in the living room, waiting for… something else to happen. Something eventually did, as I heard the sound of a toilet flushing from the other side of the house, and soon encountered the person who I expected to meet here, Vivi Gaimz. Standing at 1.64 meters, and weighing very little, she wasn’t a very intimidating person in regards to stature. Though, her pale face, glare heightened by the slight bags that perpetually surrounded her eyes, and mane of slightly disheveled curly red hair were enough to give her a very assertive aura.

“What are you doing in my house?” Vivi curtly asked.

“Oh, um, I was just…” I began before somebody came to cease my stammering.

“Y’vonne Hemming simply wanted to get the cell phone numbers for Maxxie, Zoe, and Shiaka. Also, Anita thought she looked cold and invited her in for tea.” Gem answered, waving an index card in his left hand.

“Oh for the love of cripes.” Vivi unenthusiastically murmured.

Vivi then stormed off to the kitchen, likely to have a word with Anita. Gem escorted me to the sofa, sitting me on the edge, with his body placed about three centimeters away from mine. He was never good at respecting people’s personal space.

“Are you from around here, Y’vonne Hemming?” Gem asked me, looking directly into my red eyes.

“I am… not. Or rather, I have been away for a… while and I just got back today. I had some things I wanted to talk to those three about, but, as you know, they aren’t here, I can’t talk to them without their phone numbers.” I explained using a very vague version of the truth.

“But would you not have them saved on your phone?” Gem pointed out.

“I, um, I lost it,” I muttered. “Also, they weren’t responding to their emails, so… Look, could I please have their phone numbers? You are literally holding them in your hand right now.”

After looking at me blankly for a moment, Gem handed me the index card, which I quickly looked over, trying to memorize the numbers in case I happened to lose it before stuffing it a tiny women’s pants pocket. I thanked Gem for this as I stood up and prepared to bail on the three, but a call from the kitchen caused me to pause.

“Tea Time!” Anita shouted as she came out from the kitchen, with a plate containing four mugs. 

“I’m sorry, I really shouldn’t intrude,” I told Anita as she thrust a mug full of tea towards me. “Besides, you look like you’re having a nice night, and I, um, I really would hate to ruin it.”

“Oh please, the more the merrier and such. Besides, you have to be freezing if you were outside without so much as a hat on your head.” Anita chipperly added as she placed a warm mug in my hands.

Anita, if she wants to leave, we should let her. Gem, you already gave her the phone numbers, right?” Vivi said with a light layer of venom in her voice.

“Yes Vivi, she already has the telephone numbers.” Gem quickly replied.

“Vivi, I get that you don’t want guests, but it’s the season and such. We should try to help out people from all walks of life. …But if you want to be a scrooge, you can kick her out. It’s your house after all!” Anita replied.

“If she didn’t want to leave, then I would let this mysterious woman stay,” Vivi said with rudeness resonating in her voice. “However, she wants to leave— without tea— so we should let her. What you are doing is ruder than what I am suggesting.”

Fine, Vivi. Sorry about the mess, Y’vonne. You can go ahead and leave if you want to. But if you’re going to be around, I’d like to get to know you better. Also… you play some sort of sport, right?” Anita said, ending one conversation and beginning two more.

Such a question was not unfounded, as I was rather tall, and while my clothing was not very form-fitting, my… athletic build was pretty obvious.

“I… simply work out. I’m not really into sports. But, anyway, I need to get going and… make some calls. It was nice seeing you all again!” I said as I started putting on my boots.

“I am sorry for repeating myself, Y’vonne Hemming, but have we met before this?” Gem asked.

I froze as I realized my mistake…

Nope! No, we have not! I simply misspoke. Anyway, great meeting you all.” I nervously replied as I shoved on my coat.

“Hold on a sec, at least let me give you my digits!” Anita spouted as she sprinted to the kitchen.

“That woman. After all these years, I still don’t quite get her,” Vivi whispered as she looked back at her friend with a smile.

Anita then dashed back to me and handed me another index card with her own phone number. I was unsure why she was so inclined to befriend me, but I thought little of it, thanked her, and made my leave. With the door shut behind me, I let out a sigh, filling my lungs with cold air, before sprinting through the winter night, eager to take care of what I needed to.

While trekking back to my house, however, I couldn’t help but ask myself a few questions about what I just witnessed. Why exactly were the three so calm after they, presumably, witnessed such destruction two and a half days ago? Why would they be so nice to a stranger like me? …Why weren’t I close enough with those people to ever have called them friends? I mean, not only are they nice people, but as an 18-year-old, it is pretty weird to only ever have three friends… and remained friends with them for years and years. 

I chose not to dwell on any of that though. I had some calls to make, and I knew that my friends were, at the very least, alive. That was one problem down, and a massive load off my mind… but I still had to convince them I was really Jad Novus.